The Queen of Discontent
Years ago, two friends of mine founded a musical duo called “Kings of Discontent”. When they told me their name my immediate response was, “I am the Queen of Discontent!”
I think of myself as the Queen of Discontent because I have spent my lifetime living with longing for something more than or different from my present reality. It isn’t driven by a life of lack and suffering, my life has been full of abundance and blessing…and hard things too.
So why my discontent, I have asked myself? Is it just endless striving? If this much is good, then wouldn’t more be better? I have a gnawing desire, yearning for more.
One of the results of this discontent is that I am constantly examining my life: What am I doing with my days? How am I using my gifts and talents? If I could do ‘more’, exactly what would the ‘more’ be? Which opportunities have I not pursued? What do I desire that I haven’t yet initiated? What might I regret if I don’t act? What am I curious about?
Over the years I have learned to live very peacefully with this devilish aspect of myself. The demanding, ever-unsatisfied part of me persistently pushing against my complacency; the Queen of Discontent. Identify her, name her, acknowledge her power. See the good that comes from her discontent, there is certainly not much room for boredom or apathy when she is around.
As long as the Queen of Discontent isn’t running the show, I am free to enjoy her gifts. Insatiable curiosity, delight and wonder, efficiency, drive, and perseverance - all these qualities live in my Queen of Discontent. Determination in the face of challenges, willingness to make the effort to push through, and oftentimes downright willfulness. My Queen stretches me, pushes me, chastises me and inspires me. When I say, “I can’t do that”, my Queen says, “Why on earth not?” When I say something is too difficult, my Queen says, “So go slower, take baby steps.” When I am afraid, my Queen shows me my courage and shares hers with me.
I long ago learned how to say to my Queen of Discontent, “Enough. This is good enough.” My Queen, pushy as she is, isn’t a perfectionist and doesn’t expect me to be one. We both vote for novelty over repetition every time. I would much rather spend a year painting a dozen paintings for an exhibition, than creating a ‘perfect’ one in the same amount of time.
I like being able to choose from several projects at the same time. What do I feel like doing today? What am I interested in at this moment? While most things do get finished in the end - it can take a long while and look a little chaotic while everything is in process (especially as I rarely pack things up mid-process because packing things away and retrieving them later wastes precious time).
My family has always laughed at me anytime they returned home. They never had to ask what I had been doing in their absence. Moving from room to room they could see exactly how I had been spending my time. I have always loved that they can laugh in the face of my chaos.
My biggest achievement in the ‘go slower’ category has been the four-year undergraduate degree that took twenty-five years to complete. Paradoxically, I have found my own way to the idea of enjoying the process. I do think that I used to avoid finishing things because they might become something to care about. The loss of my Mother early in life definitely left me suspicious of caring too deeply for much.
The beauty of it is that given long enough even baby steps add up. I am often surprised when I actually finish something because I am so engaged with the process that I haven’t even seen the end coming.
Long live the Queen of Discontent.
I hope that reading these reflections on my Queen of Discontent inspires you to consider what the caricature of your more challenging personality traits might be called and characterized as. Which traits do you find the most trying? How could you develop them into a character? How do these same traits manifest in constructive ways? How do they serve you?
I find it empowering to allow myself to name and own the more challenging aspects of my personality. I find it exciting and gratifying to explore the ways these traits aid me. Understanding that no trait has a purely negative impact has led me to a much more accepting and compassionate self-awareness.
Thanks for reading, I’d love to hear from you if you feel inspired, have questions or want to share your experience below!